Thursday, January 20, 2011

Everyday Parking Dilemmas

Published January 20, 2011 in the TRU Omega

I am always in a hurry and this morning is no exception. I’m running behind. I look at the dash board clock, 8:25am; my appointment is for 8:15. My assistant and I finally pull out of the driveway. We’ll get there eventually, but I know when we do there will be another obstacle to deal with. Parking. Finally we arrive. As we turn the corner we begin searching for a parking spot. They’re all full and half of the vehicles don’t have a disabled parking pass. This is an ongoing dilemma. Parking. If it’s not lack of parking, its snow, often piled high against the curb. I hear it crunch under my assistant’s feet as she reaches in, straining and stretching over the hard, icy barricade. I have visions of falling, lying helpless on the ground. What would I do if she was knocked unconscious? All this because the snow plow operator decided disabled parking spaces were suitable storage sites.

Once we overcome that hurdle, the next arises. Now we have to tackle the sidewalks, covered in slippery jagged pieces of ice, like a neglected skating rink. My assistant’s white-knuckled hands grip my wheelchair while she carefully tip-toes across the surface. We are now 30 minutes late for my appointment. Maybe I should just rebook. We’ve made it this far though, I might as well continue. After the appointment we head back towards the car and see an oversized pickup truck parked within five inches of the passenger door. My assistant leaves me in the parking lot while she backs up the car. I’m overcome with visions of huge delivery trucks barreling through, not seeing me sitting there. How would that read in the headlines? “Disabled Woman Killed by Oversized Truck, Due to Lack of Accessible Parking.” Not how I want to be remembered.

I once had the opportunity to do a practicum at People in Motion, a place where wheelchairs frequent. At an organization such as this, people should respect the disabled parking signs, but repeatedly I would see vehicles sitting motionless in the sun.

Another situation occurred when I went to meet friends for lunch. The disabled parking spot was parallel to the wheelchair ramp. My vehicle was blocking it. My assistant had to push me around the vehicle to the other side of the building and tilt my chair onto the curb in order for us to get into the restaurant. It happened to be raining that day, soaking me and my wheelchair. My hair became a sopping-wet mess, flattened upon my head. If the ramp had been placed properly, I wouldn’t have looked like a wet-dog, whimpering for my lunch.

Often there are not enough disabled parking spots. Designers can neglect to consult people with disabilities, to explore what their needs are. I would be happy to consult with them to make a few changes! Most days I wish we didn’t have to deal with parking dilemmas. We’re on our way again, already late as usual. History repeats itself.

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